After thrilling title finale, NASCAR withdrawal now setting in

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We are all part of a giant circus, you and me. And when the circus shuts down, we don’t know exactly what to do.

Except perhaps not wanting to give ourselves the one thing we could probably use right now – a break.

I’m talking about NASCAR, of course, which is now officially in its hibernation phase. We’re in the middle of our first weekend without a NASCAR race since mid-July. And we won’t see another NASCAR race until Daytona Speedweeks in February.

There will be a few things in the off-season that will break up the monotony, the biggest of which being all the Champions Week stuff in Las Vegas. But eventually, we’re all gonna feel like we’re in that winter “dead zone.”

Perhaps some of you are already there. I’m noticing Twitter hashtags that highlight fans suffering from #NOD – that’s “NASCAR Offseason Disorder” – and today, #NoNASCARSunday.

The thing is, we all need to rest a little. We’re coming down from a long, 38-week schedule with 36 races. As exciting as it is and as much as we’ve paid attention to it, it’s still a grind.

And I’m just talking about the fans and media (like myself). What about the drivers and the teams that actually have to, you know, compete every weekend?

But hey, they’ve earned their vacation. As for the rest of us, our weekly routine has suddenly gone away, even if just for a relatively short period of time. And whenever a routine goes away – whether it involves NASCAR or something else – you’re left to ponder what to do with yourself.

You could keep tabs on some other disciplines of racing, perhaps.

Next month will see now-former Richard Petty Motorsports man Marcos Ambrose go back to V8 Supercars, but also the all-star Race of Champions in Barbados (which you can watch on NBCSN). Among the drivers competing in that special event is NASCAR’s own Kurt Busch. And you can see another NASCAR pilot, Sprint Cup rookie of the year Kyle Larson, tackle the Chili Bowl Nationals in January. Whether you prefer dirt or asphalt, the Chili Bowl is always a hoot.

Or maybe you can content yourself to just look ahead to 2015. There will be lots of questions to answer, among them…

  • Kevin Harvick and Stewart-Haas Racing have captured the championship, but can they maintain their form and their pace?
  • Will Ryan Newman take a step back as many title runner-ups have done in recent years?
  • Can Toyota come out of the gate strong with their new Camry and give their drivers enough power to fight up front?
  • After a controversial Chase, will Brad Keselowski continue his aggressive ways or perhaps make an effort to curry more respect among his peers?
  • Has Jeff Gordon’s last best chance at a fifth title passed him by?
  • And can Dale Earnhardt Jr. continue his success with a new crew chief in Greg Ives?

Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait a while for the answers.

But if racing kept going year-round, it’d be a drain on everyone involved. We’ve got to take a breather.

Even if we don’t feel like doing so.

New study surveys drivers’ opinions on crashes, concussions, more

James Black/IndyCar
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Auto racing safety has continued to improve through the decades, but the sport remains inherently dangerous, according to a new survey.

At the close of 2018, a new organization called Racing Safety United emerged with the intention of reducing drivers’ risk of being harmed.

RSU is made up of more than 30 members including former NASCAR Cup Series competitor Jerry Nadeau, two-time NASCAR Xfinity Series champion Randy LaJoie, NHRA team owner Don Schumacher and motorsports journalist Dick Berggren.

One of RSU’s first initiatives was to determine what current drivers thought of racing safety. The organization developed a 14-question survey and promoted it on select motorsports websites and forums. 

Participants were given the opportunity to disclose their identity or remain anonymous, and those who provided contact information were entered to win a $500 prize (for anonymous participants, the prize funds would be donated to a motorsports charity). 

More than 140 individuals participated in the survey over the course of 12 months. Below are the results of the survey:

Driver status

The vast majority of survey participants (60%) were amateur racers, while 26% of the participants were classified as Semi-Pro/Professional racers. The remaining 14% consisted of other individuals involved in the sport such as team owners and crew chiefs. 

When asked how frequently they race, 58% of driver respondents averaged 10 or more times per year on track, while 42% averaged 10 times or less.

The top five tracks respondents said they raced most often: Road Atlanta (21 votes), Watkins Glen (17 votes), Virginia International Raceway (16 votes), Mid-Ohio (16 votes), and Road America (13 votes).

Vehicular damage, injuries common

Over a third of respondents said they had been injured while racing, and almost two-thirds sasid they had suffered severe vehicle damage while racing

Driver error was cited as the top cause of vehicle damage (42 mentions), followed by concrete walls (26 mentions), mechanical failures (24 mentions), and other drivers (19 mentions). The study concluded those results indicated a need for better driver training/coaching, energy absorbing walls, and more technical inspections.

Almost a quarter of drivers said they had experienced racing-related concussions, and nearly half the respondents said one or multiple concussions would affect their decision to race in the future. 

Drivers primarily influenced by peers 

Roughly half the drivers said they would consider adopting new safety equipment if influenced by another driver (51 total mentions) and/or if recommended by a sanctioning body (47 total mentions). The study concluded those results indicated a need for drivers to become safety advocates and educate other drivers and for sanctioning bodies to mandate safety equipment. 

Drivers concerned with concrete walls

Approximately three-quarters of the drivers surveyed said they believed certain race tracks were more dangerous than others. Nearly half the drivers surveyed believe that concrete walls were the primary cause of damage to drivers and vehicles. 

Drivers willing to help

Just more than three-quarters of the drivers surveyed said that they would be willing to join a safety alliance to advocate for safer tracks. Two-thirds of drivers said that they also would be willing to contribute to a motorsports safety fund.

Click here for the full results of RSU’s survey

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